Skip to main content

View Post [edit]

Poster: bkidwell Date: Apr 25, 2011 3:24am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Mahler's 3rd, Phil Lesh interview, spring 1990 space

In a book I have sadly lost, Blair Jackson's "Goin Down the Road", there was a nice Phil Lesh interview from 1990. One of the topics discussed is the growth of the space music with the addition of MIDI, and Phil mentions a space he really liked from the spring tour - one where Jerry was using "horn" and started playing something that sounded to Phil like a parody of a famous passage given to trombone in Mahler's 3rd symphony. He said it concluded with a nice cadence and then they dropped into "I need a Miracle."

I believe I have identified this space - it is 3/30/90 in Nassau, the night after the 1st Branford show. This is a good example of why I think "space" is underappreciated. There is a lot of unique musical content in the space segments, and some otherwise mediocre shows from the last few years are partially redeemed by long, involved space jams. This particular show is pretty strong overall though. The Jerry midi-horn begins around 5 minutes in. (The final 30 seconds of this space appear at the end of the title track of "Infrared Roses" also.)

Here is a brief excerpt from the Mahler symphony that contains the passage Phil was talking about. The first movement alone is over 30 minutes, and the work as a whole is about 100 minutes. I'm pretty sure the trombone solo Phil was talking about starts around 2:10:

I would be interested if someone has a copy of the "Goin Down the Road" book to find the exact quote from Phil where this connection is made. The influence of classical music on the Dead is often mentioned in relation to Phil, but I think a lot more can be done to look at exactly what role it plays in the music. The later era of space jams is a less documented territory for careful listening, I think, and I hear the sound of 19th century orchestral music as a big component of it. For the record, I doubt Jerry was intentionally imitating this particular Mahler symphony, but I do think the musical connection is real, whether conscious or not, and that Jerry was being deliberate in using the vocabulary of late-romantic symphonic music for his melodic style in this space.

Reply [edit]

Poster: AltheaRose Date: Apr 25, 2011 8:28pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Mahler and LOTR

Btw love the comment on the Youtube clip -- something like, "You mean, Lord of the Rings is SO Mahler!" Apparently someone put it the other way. My kid's very into LOTR music; we've tried to find classical comparisons/sources, and I'll play this for him. (Gotta love french horns. They can make anything Heroic and Epic.)

Reply [edit]

Poster: bkidwell Date: Apr 26, 2011 8:02am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Mahler and LOTR

Mahler and Wagner are probably the two biggest influences on the musical language of movie soundtracks, I think. There is a lot of music of the romantic era that would be appealing to someone who likes the LOTR film scores. A few recommendations and youtube links:

Mendelssohn's Hebrides overture

Mahler 1st symphony finale

Dvorak 9th symphony finale

Brahms 2nd piano concerto

Reply [edit]

Poster: esreveRDelay Date: Apr 26, 2011 1:26pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Mahler's 3rd, Phil Lesh interview, spring 1990 space

12/28/91 The ending of the Same Thing. Check it out, that's classical.

Reply [edit]

Poster: Dudley Dead Date: Apr 25, 2011 7:45am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Mahler's 3rd, Phil Lesh interview, spring 1990 space

I have heard lots of little bits of classical music quoted, or alluded to in the Dead's music . It is one of the least talked about influences on their music , most likely for its lack of an "coolness" cache . Alot of their "space" music was influenced my (then) avant garde classical music, and "out to lunch bunch" jazz .
But on a more rudimentary level , Phil's quote about his bass playing being more influenced by Bach, and Palestrina ( late renaissance church composer ), that the blues, hints at this . In other words not jusr melodic quotes, but the musical fundamental processes going on underneath .
And "Space" is underappreciated . In 94-5 when, sometimes nothing is happenin', "Space" can be good .

Reply [edit]

Poster: light into ashes Date: Apr 25, 2011 11:31am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Mahler's 3rd, Phil Lesh interview, spring 1990 space

I think there are many classical allusions/derivations in the Dead's music that most people don't notice because they're not familiar with the classical stuff. (And there are probably lots of musicological things happening in "space" that most of us aren't aware of.)

For instance, I'm sure Lesh's bass solo in New Potato Caboose is from a classical piece - but apparently no one knows what it is. (And no, it's not the Minute Waltz!)

And sometimes the Dead (esp Jerry & Phil) would get into these little pieces live that are very reminiscent of a classical style - like in this Other One, around the 10-minute point:

While we'd expect the classical references from Lesh, Bob Weir has actually talked a few times about the classical inspiration. Like in this interview:
"By the age of seventeen, I was listening to Pendericki and Stockhausen. Further on, when we developed more facility with our instruments, it became possible for us to start exploring those new realms. So there was this overlay of modern classical along with the avant-garde and though there are some classicalists that claim the avant-garde isn't classical, they use the same instruments and sit in the same concert halls so it's all the same to me. It just comes down to how far you are willing to take it...
We used bridges from the developments of new jazz along with the modern classical influences of Penderecki, Stockhausen and ol' Uncle Igor Stravinsky. I also listened to a lot of Bela Bartok and wrote a tune based on a concerto of his that just floored me for at least a month. I listened to it every other night until it was coming out of my ears and fingers. It was a full Bartok progression with lots and lots of dissonance that worked well to my satisfaction."

The tune Weir's talking about seems to be Victim or the Crime. According to Blair Jackson:
"Weir said that the music had been inspired, in part, by Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and Bartok's Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste."
In fact, there was a whole thread here on this subject:

Elsewhere, Weir has talked about his early influences, including this:
“[In the '60s] there was a classical record on CBS with Pierre Boulez conducting ‘Le sacre du printemps’ –- or ‘The Rite of Spring'... And that rearranged my thinking, and a lot of what I wrote when I was working on the tune ‘The Other One’ I gleaned from listening to that record.”

This is what Lesh said in your interview:
"We could conceivably do an hour and a half of space and it's possible that it would be as coherent as any set of songs. Going through these tapes, I just heard a ten-minute segment of space that was just really amazing! It started out with a drone and big harmonic structures over this drone, and then I guess it was Jerry who started to play this demented horn thing that sounded like Mahler's Third deconstructed - there's this trombone passage in Mahler's Third, and it was like he was parodying it. It was silly, very funny. I don't even know if he knows the piece, actually. Then at the end of it there was a great E cadence and some well-developed craziness. And then we dropped into I Need A Miracle...
I think the whole space section, which essentially developed from our feedback experiments, is a response to electronic music and concrete music, found-objects music, tape music, that sort of thing. Some of the discontinuity that we get going - the heterophony of everybody playing something different - probably comes from those worlds to a degree."

It's interesting that the space came from the 3/30/90 show, because Phil also mentions in the interview, "The band played differently the four shows after we played with Branford [3/29] than in the shows that preceded it. After that we played more adventurously all around. Jerry and Bob were using their MIDI a little more in regular songs, getting some outside tonalities, and I think in general, in terms of the playing, we weren't sticking to the program quite as much. So that's one level in which that performance with Branford reinvigorated the band - 'oh yeah, we used to do this all the time!'"

Another interesting piece - he talks about the post-Terrapin jam they did on that tour:
"It is a little like Dear Prudence. That's an example of where Garcia had an idea that moved into a scale that's different from the one we had been in, but is somehow related to it. I think that one surfaced 3 or 4 years ago, just once, at the end of Terrapin, after all those big chords and all that madness. Then it was dormant for the longest time, and I kept trying to figure out what to play to remind him of that. I suppose if we'd listened to the tapes together it would have been simple. But nothing was that simple then. Then it surfaced again this tour...
We still have a lot of bad habits. Like sometimes when we're doing lots of tunes strung together, the transitions are too short, so there's not enough trail-out or tail from the tune in front, and often there's not enough intro to the tune in back. But we're working on that, trying to make it more interesting. We haven't really explored a lot of the variables, getting step-wise from one tune to another, in the sense of key and modulation...usually we don't take the time to do that sort of thing. Usually the tunes are just juxtaposed brutally... The best thing to do would be if we're sitting together, say during the drums, waiting to decide what to do next, we could really focus in on some transitions - actually say, okay, at the end of this tune we'll use such & such a scale, or a set of chords, or drone; after we've said everything we want to say, let's change it in this way, to this scale, which will put us in the right key for the next song. But we hardly ever do that [due to] thoughtlessness, or force of habit. Sometimes it might be just wanting to finish the tune, finish the set, and get on with the encore!...
There's always the challenge of performing the material better, in a new way, with better feeling...which is frequently not done by us. You know, a lot of times there'll be good parts, and - not so good parts. There's always the possibility that you can throw it out there and make that magical curve in which all the parts are perfectly proportioned. That to me is one of the major excitements of working with this band. I still feel it's always, potentially, right around the corner, and that we can lock into that at any time... We're closer to it now than we have been for quite a while... I've always felt that every one of our tunes has got the potential to open up and flower like Dark Star. Some might have some kind of rotating chord sequence that's kind of restrictive. But most of them have some kind of connecting passage or bridge or instrumental thing that can open up. [But] I think we get used to playing something a certain length, and it gets comfortable in that way. Perhaps other ideas would crop up if we played the instrumentals longer or tried to vary them a little more. God knows we play our songs long as it is. Probably the best way to break out of that would be to actually sit down before we play a tune and agree that at a certain point we'd open it up..."

Well, that got a little far afield from your subject, but I thought it was interesting!

Reply [edit]

Poster: WillCo Date: Apr 25, 2011 1:51pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Mahler's 3rd, Phil Lesh interview, spring 1990 space

Thank you LIA for sharing that.

I'd forgotten the Other One > Stella Blue transition from 1977 that you recommended. Heard it just now: beautiful. The part just before it becomes Stella Blue reminds me of Jerry's "Love Scene" improvisation from the Zabriskie Point soundtrack which someone has put on YouTube. If anyone likes it I can also recommend the outtake versions - 30 more minutes - which are bundled with the 2CD version of the soundtrack.

Reply [edit]

Poster: AltheaRose Date: Apr 25, 2011 8:23pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Mahler's 3rd, Phil Lesh interview, spring 1990 space

Got a date on that interview? Maybe it's in there and I just missed it. Wondering about "we're closer to it now than we have been for quite a while" ... pre-Brent's death, or later?

Reply [edit]

Poster: light into ashes Date: Apr 25, 2011 8:52pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Mahler's 3rd, Phil Lesh interview, spring 1990 space

That interview was from April 1990.

Reply [edit]

Poster: AltheaRose Date: Apr 25, 2011 9:16pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Mahler's 3rd, Phil Lesh interview, spring 1990 space

Thanks. That's roughly what I'd have thought ...

Reply [edit]

Poster: bkidwell Date: Apr 25, 2011 1:51pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Mahler's 3rd, Phil Lesh interview, spring 1990 space

Thanks LIA, great post as always. I recall another tidbit from a Weir interview where he talked about Stravinsky, which I remember this way: "A lot of that stuff, where I hammer on root and fifth, or root and flat fifth, I got from The Rite of Spring, which I consider to be early rock and roll." I just tried to find that quote in Conversations with the Dead and couldn't, so it might be in "Goin Down the Road" also.

On the subject of the mechanics of segues, I think in another interview Phil Lesh was talking about how many possible connections were unexplored. He gave the example of altering a note in the scale used in Eyes of the World to move it smoothly to Uncle John's Band. He said one of the reasons things like that happen rarely is that it was "hard to hear what the leading tones were".

I agree completely with this - I spent a lot of time working on group improvisation with heavy Dead influence, and smooth modulations (transitions) between remote keys were very hard. The problem was that as soon as you made a change in the scale or chords you were playing to something fairly dissonant, the other musicians would generally respond with chromatic, dissonant ideas of their own, and the music would go in the direction of a meltdown/freakout rather than changing into a different tonality. I hear the same thing sometimes listening to the Dead - its hard to go directly between divergent musical ideas, so "chaos music" is used as a central hub. The band moves from a groove into "space", and then at a quiet moment, a band member can start playing the vamp for a given song.

My musical background is strongly classical, and I always wanted to find a way to make improvised music move smoothly between different keys and ideas in a really smooth, dramatic, composed way, something the Dead could do with "precomposed" transitions, but rarely outside that context. Most transitions between songs depended on having overlapping scales/chords/rhythm. The most musically sophisticated improvised transitions I think are concentrated heavily in 73-74.

I completely agree that "The Other One" is one of the places where the classical influence comes out the most strongly in the music. There are numerous great examples of passages where for a minute or two, the music could be transcribed right into a 19th century string quartet. One that I'm particularly fond of is a riff that Bob would play and Jerry mirror with a volume pedal to create a striking "violin" sound. I'll provide an example from perhaps the ultimate "Other One" show, 11/14/73 - it happens starting at 2:45 into the first appearance of the song, track 18. Then at 4:00 we hear a Jerry+Phil passage that sounds like an homage to J.S. Bach that lasts about 45 seconds:

Reply [edit]

Poster: bluedevil Date: Apr 25, 2011 3:16pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Mahler's 3rd, Phil Lesh interview, spring 1990 space

Coming up soon: Check out the "Let It Grow" rehearsal. Gil Evans in the room?
This post was modified by bluedevil on 2011-04-25 22:16:25

Reply [edit]

Poster: light into ashes Date: Apr 25, 2011 7:45pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Mahler's 3rd, Phil Lesh interview, spring 1990 space

Interesting, that little Other One piece sounded like a typical part of the Other One universe to me.
This is an example where they step out of the Other One into a Jerry/Phil duet, track 23 after the tapecut at 12:30, and they explore it for a couple minutes before switching gears:

It would be interesting to read a history of just the Dead's transitions throughout their career, and how they changed. It's surprising that you say '73-74 has their most musically sophisticated transitions. While those years have the farthest-ranging jams, they also have a rather small range of songs that got used in second-set medleys, so the transitions tended to be between very familiar points. And, as you say, the jam>chaos>space>new song transition was leaned on pretty heavily in that period. One advantage '80s fans have is that a lot more songs could be used in the medleys, and along with the development of Space, that led to some unusual juxtapositions.

Weir said in '81: "Right before we knocked off in '74, we got so musically inbred that we were playing some fairly amazing stuff, but almost nobody could hear it or relate to it except for us... We were speaking a language known only to us, using a musical vocabulary that was really pretty esoteric at points... There were the close-in core of fans, like yourself probably, who could follow it. But the average kid who came to the show...we lost them with pretty fair regularity. Since then, we've gotten more succinct. The space music, though it happens, generally doesn't go on for as long, and if it does go on for a while, we generally get to the heart of what we're getting to a lot quicker... [With two drummers] every single musician you add in a group like the Dead makes it more difficult to be real open & loose - it's just not as easy as it was back then to ramble from place to place, so we have to hone our instincts as to where to go & how to get there as quickly as possible."

About key transitions:
Phil: "You change one note in the scale, from, say, G sharp to G natural in an A scale, and you can go smoothly from Eyes of the World to Uncle John's Band." (Then he complains that they never take the time to do that.)

Jerry in '88: "It used to be that a lot of what we were doing was going from one song into a wholly different kind of song where the transition itself would be a piece of music. Lately it's much less that. It's more that we are able to come up with transitions that are very graceful in a real short amount of time, because we've tried almost everything by now, in terms of going from one thing into another. It's not that the transitional music doesn't exist anymore; it's just that we've worn the pathways...there aren't many surprises left."
(Phil strenuously disagreed with this idea!)

Jerry was asked about why some segues were so common:
"Those work because of graceful key relationships; they work well because we picked them to work well... Like Estimated Prophet into Eyes of the World. They have an interesting key relationship to each other. You can play an E-major seventh scale against the leading F-sharp minor in Estimated Prophet without changing a note. So it's the same intervals exactly; it's just in different places on the scale. That makes it so you can play through a lot of places. And while we're making that transition we go from, like, B-minor to C-sharp seventh, to a little E-minor, a little C-major. There are all these possible changes, so that by changing one or two intervals, all of a sudden they'll work. But sometimes we have to discuss them because they're not all that obvious; it's not obvious what the leading tones are. Also, the rhythmic relationships is very off. So I can find a pulse in there that'll be a perfect tempo for Eyes of the World, regardless of what tempo Estimated Prophet was at, and that makes it interesting for me 'cause it's wide open.
Bob tends not to design much in bridging material. When I choose to go from one song to another, I like a segue, I like the doorways. Bob doesn't seem to care about them one way or another...the songs tend to chop off, they tend to splice into each other."

Then he talks about Blues for Allah:
"That was the next level of development - we came up with some very interesting, alternate ways to invent openness that would be developmental as well. Like I had this one idea that we actually did at the end of Blues for Allah, the song. The original structured point of that 'desert jam' there was that we could either play a single note or an interval of a fifth. You could play them for as long as you wanted to, but any time you heard a four-note chord vertically - each of us would be playing one note - you could move your note so you'd change the harmonic structure of that chord. Nobody could hold a note more than two bars, or less than a whole note, so that would guarantee the harmonic shifting. It didn't quite work the way I wanted to, but we did try it in some live jams, and sometimes it worked. My idea was to try to keep that going, and then have it go faster or slower, and have the instruments play off the harmonies they would perceive at any given moment. So if Keith heard an E-minor seventh, we could play that until it disappeared - I'll turn it into an F... We still do this some. Mostly, Bob and I do it in the space jams now. With just the two of us, it's easier to hear the harmonic content. Now Phil's been joining us lately."

Weir also mentioned in '85, "In the early '70s, there were fewer of us in the band, and during the space jams we were a little more mobile just because there were fewer of us.'s taken a while to get back that kind of mobility again. When Garcia and I go out and play together [in Space], it goes completely different places every night. That stuff is actually more mobile, in terms of the harmonic directions it takes, than any of the stuff we used to do. But the more people you have, the more everyone has to listen. I think it's starting to open up to where the space jams are getting looser. Also, with two drummers, it's almost impossible to do what we could with one drummer in terms of turning one rhythm into another. You can't get two guys to turn the same corner at once..." (He also mentions that sometimes they'd come up with current-events motifs for the Space jams, which Garcia also mentioned: 'airline hijack' or 'Qaddafi death squad', etc.)

In another '89 interview, Weir talks about Victim or the Crime:
"Actually there's a thematic line that's sort of a suggestion of something I copped from Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. I'd actually been working on little permutations of it for a long time, and it's popped up in a couple places [like Saint of Circumstance]. All that sort of stuff that I play on my bass strings, on both those tunes particularly - root and five, root and flat five, root and six or root and nine - and if I hammer those intervals on a quarter-pulse or a sixteenth pulse, that's basically stuff I've lifted from the Rite of Spring, which I consider to be early rock & roll.
The ascending passage that happens after the second verse of Victim or the Crime, and then again during the instrumental part at the end, is sort of a variation on a passage that Bartok did in 'Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste' - all that dissonance. What I've done is sort of a condensation, in a different key and in different intervals, of something he did in the first movement of that piece. I took a couple of lines and had them ascend in a sort of spiral..."

Reply [edit]

Poster: Incornsyucopia Date: Apr 29, 2011 12:50pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Mahler's 3rd, Phil Lesh interview, spring 1990 space

Thanks so much for posting those quotations. Most of those I'd never read before. As I'm working on this very topic (I'm a musicology PhD student with a serious interest in the more avant-garde side of the Dead) could I bother you for the specific references for the interviews that these are taken from: who was the interviewer, where they were published etc. I'd be very grateful!

Reply [edit]

Poster: bkidwell Date: Apr 26, 2011 7:34am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Mahler's 3rd, Phil Lesh interview, spring 1990 space

Yes, I agree the passage I referenced is a typical part of the "other one universe" (nice phrase btw) - what I was trying to illustrate is that the other one universe overlaps a lot more with the classical universe than most rock songs. There are a lot of small segments in typical Other Ones that work in both musical contexts.

On the subject of transitions - I think the reason I hear 73-74 as having the most musically interesting transitions is because of what Weir says about having two drummers - "almost impossible to do what we could with one drummer in terms of turning one rhythm into another. You can't get two guys to turn the same corner at once." As one example, I would offer the jam sequence on 7/21/74 of Playin->Wharf Rat->Truckin->Playin.

In these transitions, the feel of the songs really seems to me to be blended together in a smooth transformation. Each transition is excellent, with the Wharf Rat into Truckin' being particularly brilliant to my ears.

Reply [edit]

Poster: unclejohn52 Date: Apr 26, 2011 8:21am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Mahler's 3rd, Phil Lesh interview - Dead Symphony

Thank you both - this incredible thread reaffirms for me why I love this band. I have little to add to this discussion, but the light you shed on the topic is amazing. I assume you know of Lee Johnson's Dead Symphony - a fascinating journey into a classical realm of GD music. Not all great, but certainly interesting. Worth a listen...

Reply [edit]

Poster: bkidwell Date: Apr 26, 2011 7:34pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Mahler's 3rd, Phil Lesh interview - Dead Symphony

Yeah I'm absolutely aware of it, but I confess I haven't heard it yet. It's on my shortlist of music I need to listen to but have been prevented by a shortage of round tuewits.

Reply [edit]

Poster: SpacedAgain Date: Jul 18, 2011 4:44pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Mahler's 3rd, Phil Lesh interview, spring 1990 space

In part of an acoustics class with Betsy Cohen I went to a performance of the SF Symphony that Bob Weir came to as well.

It was in the Fall semester before Jerry came back in '86, and they played the Rite of Spring. There's some weird acoustics in that building, behind the orchestra.